On one side of the inside edge of the gravity ring is ILEX WAY - a 1.5km continuous walkway featuring real trees, seating and the innovative VideoPonds(tm) showing live space views and other scenes through a familiar yet quirky medium. Starfield image in left VideoPond by Carter Roberts of the Eastbay Astronomical Society in Oakland, USA using Kepler spacecraft.
Each Cubein offers stunning views of space via virtual or real windows, depending on the structural integrity of that section of the ship
CONCEPT VISUALISATION 1.0
Propulsion - The four outer rocket pods with tough integrated landing legs enable acceleration to cruising speed, independent manoeuvring thrust, possible landing and take off from low gravity planetary surfaces plus limited space propulsion when the central engine core is separated or inoperable. The small dual thruster pods behind each main rocket pod spin the ring to generate gravity or bring the spin to a stop. The core contains a huge low thrust ion drive engine to slowly accelerate POLO MARCO on any long journeys. It is possible a conventional rocket may also be attached to the rear of the ion drive, with a swivel mechanism used to switch between the two. Small thrusters are mounted on each core spoke/PBB for use in docking and undocking the core with the ring, or for briefly maneuvering the core when it is separated from the ring within the constraints of on board fuel supplies.
Launch + landing - As of 2020, we are exploring whether the entire POLO MARCO ship will be constructed in space, or the ring built on and launched from Earth, with only the core constructed in space - as has always been planned. The amount of energy and forces required to lift each KG/lb of anything into space against Earth level gravity is considerable, therefore, if the ring is to be launched from Earth (with passengers ferried up later either way), huge reusable X rated rockets could be temporarily attached to the built in rocket pods and jettisoned once the POLO MARCO ring reaches space. The forces exerted on the aerodynamically terrible ring and launch rocket attachments would cause it all to break up during launch. Therefore, two tough but lightweight cross members would join each launch rocket to ensure structural integrity. All said, a considerable amount of research will be required to ascertain if the ring can be launched from Earth. It is however being assumed that over the coming decades the technology and materials will exist to allow POLO MARCO to land and take off from solar system planets and moons with considerably weaker gravity than Earth, such as Mars. This allows for the possibility that once POLO MARCO has been retired from duty as a space touring ship, it could land on and become a Mars colony facility. (Concept visualization to follow.)
Defense - POLO MARCO’s mission is to enthral and educate, not decimate. However, whilst sentient threats are unlikely, there is the remote risk of foreign objects threatening the ship, such as a rogue asteroid or even space debris that may be common around local planets and moons. If sensors detect (!) a possible threat to POLO MARCO and the ship cannot make a timely course adjustment, then energy beam technology based on that in development by the US military today could be used to superheat and destroy any threats. A well trained but easy going uniformed police force will exist on the ship to help and protect. Non hull breaching weapons will be available at the last resort.
To provide a sense of scale, Earth's largest dinosaur, the 21.3m/70ft tall Argentinosaurus is shown on the side of POLO MARCO. Look carefully and you may spot a smaller humanoid life form below its head
CONCEPT VISUALISATION 0.4
Energy - For reliability, POLO MARCO relies upon a variety of energy sources. The entire skin of the ship is made from a photosensitive material based on next generation flexible solar panels. This will ensure that during parts of the tour when sunlight is available, energy can be generated and stored. The main rockets and possibly* the manoeuvring thrusters rely on conventional rocket fuel. Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are being considered as the ship's primary source of energy, although cooling a nuclear reactor away from large sources of coolant is an issue we hope will be dealt with prior to construction. It may be possible to use water from other facilities, such as the ‘outdoor’ swimming pool on Ilex Way.
*Alternative thrust methods may be chosen pending talks with partners offering superior technology.
Repairs - The skin of POLO MARCO is semi organic with self healing properties similar to those developed in Japan for next generation airliners and LG in a curved mobile phone launched in 2013. This will handle small low speed impact damage. Larger ruptures will be filled using a tough flexible putty that can harden without air. In the event of catastrophic damage, including hull breaches, compartments can be sealed off and spare panels used to conduct repairs.
Shuttle - We are exploring the idea of at least one ship shuttle for conducting repairs to POLO MARCO, dealing with foreign objects and ferrying passengers to and from the ship.
Society - A commercial and community venture, a proportion of POLO MARCO passengers will be children chosen by lottery from random Earth nations. This will offer youngsters a remarkable opportunity to spend several years of their early lives on an adventure like no other.
More to come - This site will be perdiodically updated with enhanced and new visualisations. To keep up to date follow @GoPoloMarco on Twitter.
Name: POLO MARCO
Complement + Passengers: Approx 3500
Weight: Approx 4,500,000 metric tons
Ship computer: JCN
Propulsion: Hydrogen peroxide rocket x 4, Ion drive
Power: SMR (Main), Solar (Temp/Aux)
Construction start: Approx 2035
Concept + Design: Alex Blok
Rocketry consultant: Nick Davis
Imagine being there - Saturn from Cassini
Copyright 2012 NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI